|They just spent like two or three weeks out the country / Them boys up to something, they just not just bluffing (AP Photo)|
Yes, winning makes everything better. But as someone who remembers the Carr years, there was not this joy. Michigan football, for so many years, even when it was winning football, had hints of joylessness. It felt, at times, like a thing that had to be done. But Michigan was winning, so it was good. Then came the Rodriguez years, which had flashes of brilliance, but more of chaos and of agony. The early promise of the Hoke years died in the rain of Utah and the Shane Morris incident. Happiness came in the form of gallows humor and knowing nods at the other members of the tribe.
This changed with Harbaugh. We saw flashes of it last year, we could not sell ourselves the notion that they would be this much better from Year 1 to Year 2. We got that bill of goods sold to us, hard, in 2009. We're wearing scars of wounds we only remember we have when something reminds us of them in a way we were not expecting. We didn't know if the quarterback would be an issue. Instead, Speight has become a quietly efficient machine, eluding pass rushers and dropping pinpoint passes into buckets. He leaped across the goal line because he thought he saw a tackler, but ended up with style and flair points. We didn't know if Michigan could establish the run. Instead, we get a seemingly infinitely headed hydra of options, with De'Veon Smith shaking defenders off his foot, and Chris Evans blazing into the secondary like he was leaving flame tracks in his wake.
This is why Harbaugh is worth every dollar he gets. He understands how to get the players to execute and to excel and to want to find ways to be better. But he does not suck the joy out of the process. Harbaugh's teams are teams. They are loose, they are light, and they are supportive of each other. It is easy to mock Michigan for the things we want to believe we are and the stories that we tell ourselves that we are, but it is clear that this team is keeping in the best traditions and proper spirit of what Michigan holds itself out to be.
The oddness of a Kinnick night presents itself as the next challenge. Michigan will be ready for it. We are hopeful that the joy will follow.
(Additional joy notes from the Maryland side: the Maryland kick return duo of D.J. Moore and Jake Funk wins the prize for "kick returners that sound most like a Macklemore knockoff.
Similarly, Perry Hills wins the current B1G prize for "Quarterback whose name sounds most like an MHSAA Division 5 football playoff qualifier, edging ahead of Tyler O'Connor.)